Moving Wall Moves Many Vietnam War Memorial Stops at St. Marys Library

Article excerpt

ST. MARYS -- Herman McCarthy kneeled to trace his fingers over the name of an old friend etched in white on the polished black wall.

He rose to his feet with his head bowed and a somber expression on his face as the memories flooded back to a time many others try to forget but can't.

"I know a lot of these names," McCarthy said. "It's hard looking at this."

McCarthy came to St. Marys yesterday, not to relive painful experiences, but to visit The Moving Wall, a portable replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

McCarthy said he particularly wanted to find the name of a soldier he served with in 1969-70, Harry Chesser of Brantley County, who was killed in action.

He was among the hundreds of people who visited the 252-foot-long wall, which will be on display until Monday in St. Marys. Many of those searched for the names of Camden County residents who died in Vietnam -- Larry William Bailey, Rodney M. Davis, Donald A. Harrell, Oscar King Higginbotham, Alexander King, Rayford Henry King, Johnny Cecil Wheeler, LeRoy White Jr. and Lester Carnell Yarbrough.

One of the speakers at the opening ceremony, Trish Mahaney, told the audience she attended to "pay tribute to those who died and to pay tribute to those who lived."

Among those Mahaney talked about was her husband, Air Force pilot 1st Lt. Douglas Burd, who was shot down in Vietnam.

"Thirty-one years ago, my life changed forever," Mahaney said. "Today is the day to remember freedom comes with a price."

Mahaney said she became an activist after her husband was reported missing in action by starting a letter-writing campaign asking the North Vietnamese for humane treatment for prisoners of war.

Her husband was declared killed in action in July 1970, Mahaney said. His remains have never been recovered despite several searches in the 1990s, she said.

"Some of us won't get that answer [about what happened to family members missing in action]," Mahaney said. "I saw wives trapped the past 25 years in perpetual rage."

Retired Rear Adm. Kevin Delaney, the keynote speaker, was introduced as the most decorated sailor in the Navy at the time of his retirement in 1998.

Delaney, who flew nearly 700 missions in Vietnam, described those who served there as "truly unsung heroes. …